Read Perfect Harmony Online

Authors: Sarah P. Lodge

Tags: #Romance, #love triange, #secret babies, #Contemporary, #billionaire love story, #coming of age, #workplace, #wealthy, #International, #billionaire romance, #new adult, #Genre Fiction, #Literature & Fiction

Perfect Harmony (7 page)

And the soft feel of his lips against my cheek.

It wasn’t even how he made me feel on a sensual level. 
There was something else about the way he treated me that made me feel
different.  Bold and beautiful and courageous and willing to do anything; no
longer some scared little girl.

He makes me feel like a woman.

How can one man make me feel this way when nothing else in
my life ever has?  Perhaps it was the way he looks at me with that hunger in
his eyes.  Or the touch of his compact and muscular body against my own.  Or
his smell, so hot and musky and clean, like a wild animal full of power and
control.

It sends me into a deep lust just thinking about him.  Blood
thumps against my ears and my stomach twists, my skin so tingly and scorching
hot, and a furious fluttering in my chest.

I’ve never felt this way about a man before, such hunger and
want and desire, tearing me up inside.  Every moment he’s away it hurts like
hell, and every second he’s next to me I want him more until I can’t think of
anything else.

I swallow, and it feels like there’s a golf ball in my
throat.

All I need to do is get through tonight.  I’ll make sure to
say nothing else to him, and keep my distance as much as possible.  Then I’ll
have something to drink, maybe champagne, and something to eat.  Before I know
it, tomorrow will come and I’ll be free and back to work at the admin desk and
Chase will go back to being Mr. Strong and never look my way again.

Easy.

It’s not like he’s actually attracted to me, not for real. 
He says he’s chosen me over that perfect paragon Mercedes Bell, but he’s just
lying to make me feel better.  He’s probably been lying to me all evening.

But I’m reminded again of how he cupped my cheek and gazed
deep into my eyes, his own so large and enveloping.  I felt adrift in his
words, how he told me he wanted nothing more to do with her because he met me.

The real me
.

Maybe this is who I really am, ball gowns and champagne and
charity fundraisers.  Someone I’ve denied for so long.  Someone who Chase would
want.

A thrill rushes though my body as I remember how he pulled
me close and wrapped his arms around me like he was protecting me from the
world, like a rare treasure he wanted to keep safe whilst flaunt in front of
movie stars and famous singers and politicians.  The feel of his piercing gaze
as he inspected my body from top to bottom when we left the limo and his stern
hand brushing off the paparazzi that scared me so much.

The tension rises up in me like a coiled spring, the need
for him so blinding it’s unreal.  How he makes my heart pound against my chest
and my breath so shallow and fast, my breasts rising and falling with every
tight exhale, wrapped snug in this gorgeous dress he bought me.  A dress he
bought to make me look more beautiful.

And that look he gives me.  Every time our eyes meet and our
gaze locks to each other, I fight the powerful urge compelling me to spill my
guts and confess everything to him.

Things I can’t even confess to myself.

What’s wrong with me?  Why am I torturing myself like this?

I need to go back to the plan: keep my distance, say little
and leave as soon as possible.  If I do that, nothing can go wrong.

“Melody?”

I spin around and find Richard standing behind me.  He scans
me in my tight gown, his mouth wide open and eyes awash with surprise.  “You
look... I mean...” he stumbles out.  He shakes his head.  “I didn’t think you’d be
here.”

I bite my lip.  “Me neither.  Are you alone?”

Richard’s mouth opens, ready to speak when I hear a woman’s
voice come up behind him.  “Richard, darling, you have to try these oysters, I
mean, they look disgusting but when they go down, oh my god.”  She catches
sight of me and freezes.  “Melody, hi.  Didn’t see you... standing... there.”  She
brushes a lock of long blonde hair off her face.

“Liz.  Nice to see you.”

“You too,” she says.

And we stand for a moment, paralysed and speechless in the
sheer awkwardness.  It feels like hours pass before anyone speaks again.

It is only then that I notice Liz’s face.  She looks
miserable, almost on the precipice of bursting into tears.

“Melody.  I... I’m so sorry.”

Her voice cuts through the silence like a knife through warm
butter.

“Liz, stop it,” says Richard.  “There’s nothing to apologise
for.”

“We never meant to hurt you,” says Liz.  “Really.  It was a
big mess and I’m so sorry.”

“Stop it.”  Richard glares at me and continues.  “We were
going to tell you last week but you’ve been avoiding us this entire time.”

My mouth falls open.  “You’re blaming me?”

“Come on, Melody.  I was meant to be your boyfriend but if
you didn’t want me then at least you should have had the stones to tell me
rather than working late, or whatever crap excuse you’ve got ready at a moments
notice.”

“This is not my fault.  You’re the one who cheated on me!”

“Not if you hadn’t pushed me away.  For god’s sake, is it
any wonder Liz and I got together?  All those nights we planned to do something
and you disappeared with no warning, me already in your apartment.  You’re the
reason you’re unhappy.  Not us.”

I shake my head.  “No, that’s a lie.  A damn lie.”

“Really?”  Richard eyes me from top to bottom, prolonging
his look on my long auburn hair curling over my shoulders, and the low cut of
my top pushing my ample breasts so close to my chest they threaten to spill
over.  “Because you sure as hell never dressed like that when we were dating.” 
He grinds his teeth.  “So, who is he?”

This is the moment I’ve been preparing for all night.  The
time to drop the revenge bombshell that the man I’m with is Chase Strong, his
boss, his boss’s boss, billionaire playboy, ruthless and handsome, someone who
could have any woman on the planet.  And he wants
me
.

And then they’d be shocked.  They’d be jealous.  They’ve
been eaten alive with envy.  And I would be satisfied and happy again.

But then I see Richard’s arm is wrapped around Liz’s waist,
his hand on her side and holding her to him.  It’s only the minutest of
gestures, but unconsciously he wants to keep her close to him.  He wants to
protect her.  And she wants to let him.

I never even offered him that.  Not even the passive
submission of letting him try and take care of me.  Every time he had tried to
touch me, I had pulled away.  We got along so well at the recording studio when
we first met - we had so much in common and he was nice and sweet.  A
relationship seemed like the sensible thing to do, but I never really felt
anything for him beyond friendship.  I strained to keep the relationship alive
- it was the right thing to do with how supportive he was of my dream and how
he wanted to be the one to make it come true.

But I felt nothing.  The first time he tried to kiss me, I
resisted.  And then I made some bullshit excuse that even I can’t remember
anymore.  All the excuses have blurred together after all these months.

He’s right.  I’ve spent our relationship avoiding him.  And
that isn’t right for him.  He deserves someone who appreciates all he can offer
and can want him back.

He deserves Liz.

They’ve even slept together, as my mind’s eye will never let
me forget.  I couldn’t even offer him that.  Not that it would have made much
difference.

I never loved Richard.  I realise that now, but that truth
isn’t what hurts me.  What hurts is how I’ve lost my dream of being a singer. 
Everyone in my life has always told me that I could never do it, that no matter
how great my voice is, I’m just not the right person for it; I’m too nice.  But
I know what they really meant - I’m not pretty enough.

But Richard didn’t listen to that - he was so naive and new
to the business that he didn’t care, and he was ready to do all those things
that agents do, that I have no idea about.  He knew people in the industry, and
what to say and who to say it to.

But I don’t know how to do any of that.

I had such big dreams, and the second I saw Richard and Liz
screwing each other senseless on the couch, I knew they were over.  He had ended
them.

No.  I hate to admit it, but the truth is I’m the one who
ended those dreams, long ago.

Richard gave me enough opportunities to sing in public, at
bars and open mic nights and demo auditions.  But I found excuse after excuse
to blow them off because I was afraid what people would say when they saw the
woman behind the voice.

How’d they’d judge this silly dumpy little girl who has
nothing else going for her.

Time and time again I told myself that it would be the last
time I passed up such an opportunity, and that next time would be different -
by then, I’d have my hair done, lose some weight, maybe even get a nose job and
push myself to be outgoing and confident.

But I never did any of those things.  All I did was make
excuses.

I’m the reason my dreams are gone.

Richard and Liz may have been wrong to lie to me and carry
on an affair behind my back, but I should never have been a coward from the
beginning.

“You’re right,” I say.

“What?”

“I was never there for you, Richard.  And I fucked up
everything you did for me...probably ruined your business.  God, I’m so sorry.”

“Melody, it’s alright,” says Richard.  The anger in his face
drops instantly.  “It doesn’t matter.”

“It does matter.  I was scared to death of the wonderful
things you were offering me, about what could happen if I put myself out
there.  So I ran away.  I’m so so sorry.”

“Me too,” he says.  “You didn’t deserve to find out about me
and Liz the way you did.” He gives a halfhearted smile.  “I did really like
you, you know?”

“I know.”

“But things don’t always work out how you think.”

“No, not they don’t.”

Another awkward silence falls between us.

Liz sighs then breaks the silence once again.  “Okay, so
we’re sorry, you’re sorry, the whole world is sorry.  How about, get this: we
just forget this entire mess and go back to how things were.  Except obviously,
me and Richard are a couple.  But what I mean is...”  Liz paused for a moment. 
“Friends?”

I smile.  “Sounds good to me.”

“So, who is he, the lucky fella?” asks Liz.

I dry swallow.  “A friend.”

“Well, it’s not me and it’s not Liz,” says Richard, “so I’m
stumped.”

“A new friend,” I say.

“Good,” says Liz.  “There’s always room for new people in
our lives.  I hope the two of you have a wonderful time.”

My face lights up with a wide smile and I blush.

“Would you look at that?” she says.  “Come on, Richard,
let’s get out of here.”

Richard nods at me, and then he and Liz disappear into the
crowd.

And I feel suddenly lighter.  Like a weight has been lifted.

“Interesting,” says a deep acerbic voice behind me.

I spin around.  “Chase!  How long have you been there.”

“Don’t worry.  Only long enough to see the pleasantries.” 
His thick arm juts out with a swimmer’s grace and offers me a flute filled with
champagne.  “You didn’t tell them.”

“No, no I didn’t.”

“Why?”

I take the champagne flute from his grip.  “Because I’ve
caused him to suffer enough.  I had my own part to play in this whole mess, and
I may be too scared to chase what I want, but I can’t begrudge the people that
do.”

“But, irrelevant of your part, he still hurt you.  You could
have made him suffer.”  His deep dark eyes are perplexed.  “It makes no sense.”

“I know.”

I bring the flute to my mouth and the bubbles tickle my
lips.  I tilt my head back and gulp down the glass in one motion, desperate for
the alcohol to go straight to my head.

Maybe then I can forget this horrible feeling inside, this
gnawing sense of fear that petrifies me every time I need to take a risk, deep
in the knowledge that I’d fail, so what is the point.

How ironic.  I’m so afraid I’ll never amount to anything
that I’m too scared to do anything.  Avoiding was meant to keep me safe and
stop myself from feeling hurt, but all it’s done is make me lose everything
that actually matters.

I sniff and wipe a small tear from my eye.

“Are you crying?” asks Chase.  He sounds unsure how to
broach the situation.

“I’m fine.”

“You can still have him.”

“What?”

“That designer.  The way he looked at you, he can be yours
if you want him.”

The image of Liz’s guilt stricken face fills my mind.  And the
way Richard held her close, longing to protect her.

I’d never felt that spark, that lightning of passion and
want and need for him.  If was something I’d never even known existed.

Not until I met Chase.

“I don’t want him.  He wants her and she wants him.  They
deserve to be happy.”

Chase brushes my shoulder with his palm.  His hand journeys
down my arm, past my wrist and to my own hand.  Our fingers interlock.

“Aren’t you nice,” he says.

Is that scorn in his voice?  Or is it surprise?  Was it
meant to be sarcastic?  What does it matter - he called me
nice
.  Just a
synonym or two away from
coward
and
scared
.  And
wimp
.

I inhale sharply and the cold air hits my lungs like a
sobering slap.

“This dress,” I say to Chase, “it’s sexy, yes?”

Chase is taken aback.  “Very much so.”

“”Pretty hot, you’d say?  And these heels?  Someone nice and
quiet and scared wouldn’t wear them, would they?”

Chase smiles.  “No, my princess.  No, they wouldn’t.”

A waiter passes with a tray full of champagne flutes.  I
snatch one and down the entire glass instantly.

“How’s that for nice?”

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